How to Be an Ed-Tech Evangelist
What does successful collaboration between teachers and ed-tech developers look like? And as the discussions in this forum remind me, what roles must educators play in the face of resistance?
For example, after I signed up for a free teacher account with CodeHS, the company's co-founders Zach Galant and Jeremy Keeshin followed up via email. We talked about how to help each other. I figured they could use some feedback to make their product more beneficial to schools. In return, I gleaned their expertise for my students. We've tested their online coding lessons, grown our skill sets, and collected early feedback to share with the company. But this is only one class. Now what?
How do we replicate experiences like this for more students in districts concerned about digital ethics, allocating dwindling resources, and adhering to new standards?
It's the unabashed willingness to sharethe evangelismthat has the potential to eliminate barriers to the real progress of turning a collaborative relationship into scaled student learning. At the intersection of policy, practice, and now profit stands the classroom teacher. My colleague Jennifer Barnett has even parlayed such evangelism into an innovative role influencing ed-tech policies in Talladega County, Ala., as a technology-integration specialist.
Here are some action steps to help you find your voice in the ed-tech arena:
Promote your class as a laboratory. My students will submit their own scientific analysis of their ed-tech experiments to several startups by blogging, filming video reviews, and presenting suggestions in live conversations with developers. The next time you hear, "Research shows ... " think about your classroom research.
Engage stakeholders to establish yourself as an authority. Start simple by emailing company contacts and signing up for free teacher accounts. EdSurge has a terrific newsletter full of these opportunities. Then invite school and district leaders to see how you're using the tools. They might just see your transparency as a strength.
Bring data to the discussions. Poll your students to stay on top of their habits. Was a certain technology resource a non-factor in student learning? Counterintuitive? Just disliked? The student data are your strongest points for developers.
Anticipate the "core DNA" of your audience. What concerns them? What are their goals? When my district blocked all in-school access to Edmodo, I told my district about some key benefits to students and addressed security concerns with examples from my class community. The very next day, access returned to teachers. The dialogue continues, as district leaders seek anecdotes from other local classrooms using the site.
Publicize the work. This isn't self-promotion; it's student promotion. No one will knock on your door. Teachers must present more of the great things technology is doing in their classrooms.
Seek community partnerships. Who might solve your students' lack of access? Are there businesses that can offer space, projects, tools? Microsoft puts employees in classrooms. EDesign Lab acts as a hub for such collaborations. Girls Who Code is modeling innovation between entrepreneurs and classrooms.
If we imagine ourselves as evangelists for ed-tech innovation and efficiency, teachers not only catalyze powerful working relationships, but we exponentially increase the number of students who benefit from them.
Ryan Kinser is a teacherpreneur at the Center for Teaching Quality and teaches English at Walker Middle Magnet School for International Studies in Tampa, Fla.